Leafs 5 v. Lightning 4: Hallelujah!
(Note: The majority of this article comes from my BoO post. Of course, there is some PPP exclusive material here for my loyal readers/lost internet wanderers.)
Thank God for small miracles. The Leafs earned their first win when trailing after one period of play (1-13-0) and snapped a seven-game streak that was prompting all sorts of crazy talk in the media and more than a little consternation amongst the fans. The game itself was a bit of a rollercoaster ride as the Leafs took an early lead on the back of some strong play and a nice powerplay marker by Alexei Ponikarovsky. That was his first goal in 9 games. However, the game quickly took a turn for the worse.
J-S Aubin got the start and only lasted until the first minute of the second period. He was the victim of a Mats Sundin deflection and a Bryan McCabe braincramp. Paul Maurice gave him the hook and turned the ACC air blue with a timeout tirade that despite being inaudible on TV was nonetheless terrifying. Apparently it worked on the Leafs. Andrew Raycroft kept the Lightning off the board with a couple of big saves before Chad Kilger scored a brace to tie the game heading into the third. Darcy Tucker deflected a Sundin shot to give the Leafs the lead before Jeff O'Neill jumped on a juicy rebound to hammer home a 5th. Tampa added a fourth on a powerplay but the Leafs defended well in the third period and came away with the win.
Other notables were Pavel Kubina, who played great against his old mates, Carlo, who did not look out of place after an almost year long layoff, and Michael Peca, who continued his excellent play of late with assists on the second and third goals. The Sandpaper Line (Kilger, Peca, Tucker) was reunited and caused the Lightning no small amount of trouble. I could say that this was easily one of Tucker's best games of the year as he tracked back to defend well, hit well, and kept his shenanigans to a minimum.
So the weight is lifted off the Leafs. They played better all-around but there is still a long way for them to go before they reach the pre-losing streak levels let alone where the team should be. Next up is a Friday-Saturday double bill that starts in Carolina.